Friday, November 21, 2014

Robotic Dominance

Just like the old SF stories predicted, the robots have enslaved the human race and are bending us to their will.

What, you doubt me?  Consider the antiquated comet-chasing Rosetta and her child, Philae, that were launched twelve years ago*.  Both are simple robotic space explorers with fewer brains than the tiny cellphone you are holding .  The two vehicles are nothing more than simple machines, fabrications with limited autonomous ability that are sitting three hundred million miles away, doing science and sending data back to the scientists on Earth. They are just robots; cold, hard machinery, looking nothing like Terminator.

And yet....

There's a charm about the pair - the maternal Rosetta and her stumbling, fallen, and then lost child. Philae made one last valiant effort to cry out in chirps and clicks to Rosetta as her batteries died and she, forlorn, went into that dark sleep a week ago.  Only a  heartless monster would dare declare that they had no emotional reaction to Philae's plight, that they weren't praying for some miracle that would restore her to health, hoping that Rosetta could somehow acquire Philae's location.  Say that you didn't think of the pair as more than machines and I will doubt your humanity.

Or consider Roomba, a senseless little vacuum cleaner that wanders around, amusing the cats and sucking up all the dust and stray Cheetos. Try telling a Roomba owner that she's just a machine and you would be surprised at their reactions.  Instead of falling back in terrified apprehension, people have been decorating them, putting outfits on them, and even NAMING them, for God's sake!    The owners are treated them as pets, not cold, soulless machines.

Or how about the ubiquitous little single-purpose robotic apps that hide in your computer, TV, telephone, oven, car, refrigerator, and a thousand other objects?  Robots and their software analogues have become so smoothly integrated into our daily lives that we are no longer consciously aware of their presence.  Because of their oh-so-willing and nearly invisible help we don't have to think about the details of our daily lives.  No, the ever-helpful robots are quite willing to do the banal and ordinary for us, lifting the burdens of memory, smoothing our schedules, marking the beat of our lives and all the while endearing themselves, charming all of us into willing acceptance as they bend us to their will.

We are lost!

*Roughly five technology generations ago


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